After a full night of freezing rain, MillHaven is coated once again in clear, glistening glass. The ducks, Bella and Lucy, hid in their coop yesterday afternoon and I had to push them out to add more fresh straw just as the ice rain began falling.

They waggled their tails at me and muttered “Woot woot woot” while I filled their feed dish and cleaned out their kiddie pool. “Woot Gawoot!” they trilled as soon as they realized I’d drawn them a fresh bath, and into the pool they slipped as ice pellets thunked against the sides of the pool and splashed into the water.

“You two are freakin’ nuts,” I told them…

The weather this past couple of months has been extra cold, to the point where I am loathe to step outside much. And my house-bound state has me feeling that peculiar, disorienting sting of loneliness that descends upon me when I am away from the outdoors for too long.

I am missing the trees, the bare-branched, shivering shrubs and the tiny wrinkled shoots of comfrey poking up confident even in the bitterest cold. I am missing my bees, who are all huddled deep inside their hives, dreaming away the cold, and the brittle mint stems that still release that tantalizing scent of summer when I roll the stems in my fingers.

When I left the Rockies, I brought with me my hardiest winter gear, telling myself  that you just never know about the weather anymore. So I shrugged into my mint-green down parka that makes me look like the Michelin Tire Man, pulled on my knee-high Uggs, and put on my thickest winter hat.

Out into the 38-mile-an-hour winds I went, my heart hungering for a talk with my backyard relations. I stopped at the duck coop first, and when the girls were all set for the cold night to come, I didn’t hurry back inside as I normally do in those icy gale winds. Instead, I plodded up to the bee yard, upturned the wind-tossed plastic chair I keep up there, and sat myself down underneath my Sun Hive.

It’s amazing what down and sheepskin can do. In the deepening twilight, with winds and ice spinning around me, I sat as snug as that bug in the proverbial rug. Behind me, I could hear the clatter of the apple tree branches, like the sound of teeth chattering. Near my feet, bodies of expired winter bees sprinkled the outside carpet like pebbles.

Inside my warm feather igloo, I asked my breath to slow and deepen, my thoughts to settle. I let my hungry eyes settle on each plant and tree and stone and bare vine, a Mona Lisa smile touching my lips in recognition and remembrance of these many intimate friends of mine. All summer, I am bent over these garden wonders, touching their leaves, noting the different greens of spring, summer, and late autumn. I trim them, sprinkle them with water, and gather their fruits and leaves for salads and soups.

Now, greeting them from the shelter of the bee yard roof, I was not satisfied. I felt like I was on the phone with them, when what I needed was a lunch date. So out I went into the wind, walking slowly, bending over the place where the apple and pear tree trunks reached their rooted fingers into the frozen ground.

I spent slow and measured time with all my garden treasures, from the green beings to the frozen bucket ponds to my favorite rocks and yard art pieces because this is how wonder is cultivated. This is how the heart is nourished by Nature: It takes a slow, appreciative eye, and a measured, intentionally slow step. You can’t hurry wonder.

As I reconnected at this level of deep gratitude, memory, and appreciation in my frigid yard, I got to thinking about my years in the Rockies when I was immersed in wonder all the time, yet often didn’t feel it. As the years continue to pile onto my shoulders, I am finding my capacity for wonder and awe deepening. This pleases me no end, to realize that there is always another level of depth to my relationship with Creation. Til the end of my days, it is my intention to sink ever deeper into the wisdom and healing at the heart of Nature.

The path in is not measured by the grandeur of the landscape. Yes, moose and buffalo and geysers are very inspiring, but Nature opens her heart to us through the humblest of pathways: A shining beetle. A soft breeze that caresses the jaw. The song of a lone bird at twilight.

My task is not to find objects of wonder–because to the seeking eye, all objects are a wonder–but to still myself enough to let the awe in.

I wonder if this can be one of the most powerful gifts of aging: The less I can do, the slower I move, the more I forget, the greater my ability to just look, listen, meander, and smile. The more open my heart becomes to the miracle that is life on this planet.

The sky was near dark before I headed back into the house, stopping one more time at the duck coop to lock the girls inside for the night. “How is it I am even here…on Earth…in this skin-sack of mine…hurtling through the universe?” I asked Bella and Lucy.

“We don’t care,” they said. “Just don’t forget to put cracked corn on our food plate before you close the door behind you…”

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